Poverty among working lone parents has more than doubled over a five-year period up to 2017, according to a new report from the Society of St Vincent de Paul.
In 2012, 1-in-11 working lone parents were living in poverty; by 2017 this had increased to 1-in-5.
The ‘Working, Parenting and Struggling’ report says the high cost of housing and childcare, combined with low levels of income, were making it very difficult for many families with children to make ends meet.
The employment rate of lone parents in Ireland is the lowest in EU-15 countries at 58%. However, the analysis shows that lone parents with lower childcare needs have much higher rates of employment, highlighting the importance of income supports around childcare and housing.
The report criticised government changes to the One Parent Family Payment structure, implemented by then Social Protection Minister Joan Burton in 2012, which it says, “has made it more difficult for lone parents with low earnings potential and high levels of caring responsibilities to access employment, education or training, and reduced the income of those already in employment.”
Here are some of the key findings:
- Lone parents in Ireland have the second highest rate of income poverty, persistent poverty, and severe deprivation among all EU-15 countries.
- On average across Europe, one parent families are three times more likely than two parent families to experience deprivation. However, in Ireland, this risk is higher as lone parents are five times more likely to experience deprivation.
- In terms of purchasing power, lone parents in Ireland have the fourth lowest household income among EU-15 countries – only lone parents in Spain, Portugal and Greece had lower levels of income in 2017.
- While the household income of the general population in Ireland has recovered to pre-crisis levels, the income of one parent households was lower in 2017 than in 2007.
- In 2017, 84% of lone parents in Ireland were unable to meet unexpected expenses – the highest rate among all EU-15 and EU-28 countries.
The report clearly shows that Ireland is failing to meet the needs of lone parents and their children and protect them from the adverse effects of poverty
While there has been a welcome decline in the proportion of workers employed in temporary contracts since 2012, lone parents still have a high propensity to be engaged in more precarious work.
In 2017, lone parents were much more likely to be employed on a temporary contract when compared to adults in two parent families (7.6% compared to 4.6%).
SVP members, who report that they are meeting more and more working families struggling to make ends meet, concluded that the report “clearly shows that Ireland is failing to meet the needs of lone parents and their children and protect them from the adverse effects of poverty.”
In 2017, the living standards of lone parents in Ireland were among the worst in Europe.
“In 2017, the living standards of lone parents in Ireland were among the worst in Europe. They are not only more likely to be living on a very low income but also experience high levels of deprivation, find it difficult to make ends meet and be unable to pay for unexpected expenses.”
“Of particular concern, is the growing issue of in-work poverty among these families. In 2012, 1-in-11 working lone parents were living in poverty; by 2017 this had increased to 1-in-5.”
“High housing and childcare costs combined with low levels of income, mean that it is challenging for many families with children to make ends meet. These factors significantly reduce the standard of living of working lone parents who face additional challenges as both the primary earner and primary caregiver for their families.”
“It also creates additional barriers to employment for those who want to take up work or increase their working hours.”
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